Why I Voted “No” on a Zoning Change to Permit 1,000 More Million Dollar Single Family Houses in Irvine. Tell the Irvine City Council What You Think!

Recently, I voted “No” on continuing the second reading of a re-zoning proposal that would allow the addition of 1,000 single family million dollar houses to be built by the Irvine Company in the area of Portola Springs/Orchard Hills in Irvine.

This vote could have been the end of the issue, since on the first reading both Mayor Christina Shea and Councilmember Mike Carroll voted against the re-zoning.

However, Councilmember Mike Carroll now voted with the supporters of adding 1,000 new homes (Councilmembers Anthony Kuo and Farrah N. Khan) to continue the item to January 2020.

Carroll, Kuo and Khan won the vote to continue, 3-2. This means that these additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses will again come before the Council.

As a longtime advocate for local communities to permit more housing to alleviate our statewide affordable housing crisis, I was initially disposed to vote in favor of this re-zoning proposal.

But on further reflection, it became apparent to me that this proposed housing development would be built without the necessary infrastructure, including new schools and a local retail center, which are needed and have long been promised to residents.

I am a strong advocate for action on the local and state level addressing the housing crisis, but not at the cost of overcrowded schools and the abandonment of Irvine’s renowned village model and our Master Plan balancing housing with schools, retail centers, and open space.

In particular, I am a strong supporter of Irvine’s village concept, which is intended to reduce sprawl and traffic congestion, and create walkable neighborhoods and a sense of community, by locating housing, at several different levels of purchase price or rental cost, around both local schools and a local retail center.  This village model — an essential part of Irvine’s Master Plan long promoted by the Irvine Company — has been enormously successful.  As the Irvine Chamber of Commerce has boasted, Irvine is a “City of Villages.”

You can see a video promoting the Irvine Master Plan, with specific reference to the Irvine village model as an integral part of the Master Plan, here:

For this reason, I was very concerned — shocked, actually — when a representative of the Irvine Company responded to my questioning by stating that the Irvine Company had no plans to build a retail center near these new homes and were no longer committed to the village model.

In other words, I came to see that voting in favor of this zoning change is tantamount to voting for Irvine to no longer be a “City of Villages.”

On the issue of whether these proposed 1,000 million dollar homes would help alleviate the affordable housing crisis, here are the facts:

This week’s OC Register reports on an analysis by the Southern California News Group that graded every jurisdiction in California on its progress on state-mandated housing goals (the Regional Housing Needs Assessment or RHNA).

According to the article, Irvine is supposed to permit 12,149 homes between 2013 and 2021. Housing units are mandated in each of four categories: (1) very low income, (2) low income, (3) moderate income, and (4) above moderate income.

The number show that Irvine has done exceptionally well in providing housing in the moderate and (especially) above moderate income categories, but is not doing nearly as well in the low income and very low income categories, where it is seriously off track in meetings its RHNA goals.

Very Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 907 very low income units, needs 1,761 to be on track, 2,817 for final goal.  In sum, very low income units are not on track, and are far from the final goal.

Low Income Units: Irvine has permitted 3 units, needs 271 to be on track, 2,034 for final goal. In sum, low income units are not on track, and are far from final goal.

Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,973 units, needs 1,399 to be on track, 2,239 for final goal. In sum, moderate income units are more than on track, and are already in excess of the final goal.

Above Moderate Income Units: Irvine has permitted 12,137 units, needs 3,162 to be on track, 5,059 for final goal. In sum, above moderate income units are far more than on track, and are already far in excess of the final goal.

These numbers demonstrate what everyone knows: Irvine’s housing is overwhelmingly skewed toward the “Above Moderate Income” market.

The 1,000 housing units that would be added to Portola Springs/Orchid Hills under the re-zoning proposed by the Irvine Company are single family homes costing above $1,000,000.  These 1,000 “Above Moderate Income” units would not help Irvine meet its Regional Housing Needs Assessment (RHNA) goals.

On the contrary, they would exacerbate Irvine’s school over-crowding and traffic congestion problems while doing little or nothing to ease our affordable housing crisis.

That’s why I voted No.

It is my belief that only saying No to these projects that provide housing only for the well-to-do, will we encourage developers to build more environmentally responsible and affordable housing projects.

I hope Irvine residents will make their views on this proposal for an additional 1,000 million dollar single family houses clear to all members of the Council between now and then.

Contact information for all members of the Irvine City Council can be found here.

Help Shape the Future of Irvine’s Community Programs! Take Our Resident Activity Survey Today!

The City of Irvine, through the Community Services Department, is conducting a Resident Activity Survey about recreational activities offered to the community.

Results from the survey will be used to assess how City activities and programs meet the needs of the community, and how the City can continue to accommodate future needs.

We value input from the community and welcome you to take this important survey.

Questions cover City activities that you and members of your household may have participated in, and those you might want to see offered in the future.

The survey may be taken in English, Chinese, Korean, Persian, Spanish or Vietnamese.

Share your feedback and take the online survey here!

For questions, contact 949-724-6156.

Help shape the future of Irvine programs and take our survey today!

Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris: My Commitment to Irvine’s High Quality Parks and Recreation

Guest Post by Irvine Community Services Commissioner Lauren Johnson-Norris

[Note: Lauren Johnson-Norris has served Irvine for nearly two years as my appointee to the Community Services Commission. She recently wrote a blog post describing her work on the Commission, particularly her efforts to renovate the beautiful and rustic Bommer Canyon Cattle Camp and to ensure high quality recreational park space in the urban-feeling Irvine Business Complex. I am proud of the work that she has done what she has accomplished as my appointee to the Community Services Commission and I want to share her post with you. — Melissa]

As an Irvine Community Services Commissioner for the past year and 10 months, my number one priority has been making sure that our children and families experience the highest quality recreation. With over 90 unique parks, Irvine has won awards for being one of the best places to live and raise a family. As a Commissioner, I am proud of the work I have done making sure that our parks live up to Irvine’s high standards.

That is why I am so proud to have voted to begin improvements to Bommer Canyon’s Cattle Camp.

Bommer Canyon has been surveyed to be Irvine’s most loved and used community park space for excellent reasons. Bommer Canyon is a quintessential example of Irvine’s successful weaving of open space with world-class recreation. What was once an active cattle camp only 30 years ago is now a cherished, rustic hiking area.

However, the structures have been out of code and out of ADA compliance for many years. Termites and rodents have made these structures home and there is no real restroom in this community park. I am excited to have been able to vote to approve the beginning of a rehabilitation project that will make this space safer, and ADA compliant, without sacrificing its rustic feel and aesthetic.  I am also happy to share that I fought to make sure that the final design plans and materials will come back for approval in front of the Community Services Commission before they go to the City Council.

All of the Commissioners want to make sure that we preserve the unique character of the cattle camp for residents to enjoy a true piece of Irvine’s history.

I love how Irvine’s parks are as diverse as the members of our community. During my term as a Commissioner, I have fought for park space in the Irvine Business Complex and approved several parks that met Irvine residents’ high standards in this uniquely urban-feeling space.

Unfortunately, not all park proposals from developers that come before the Commission are up to Irvine’s high standards. Some have to be voted down because their design is faulty and fails to meet the standards that Irvine requires for a park.

This year, all five Commissioners voted not to approve a proposed park in the Irvine Business Complex that would have been on the roof of a building, with a swimming pool and tot lot, that the public would have had to access by taking the building’s elevators.

In reality, this proposal was not a feasible park plan and putting park space on the roof is not consistent with the character of any Irvine neighborhood.  Rejecting this faulty plan was a unanimous decision of the Community Services Commission and one we made with the best interest of Irvine residents in mind.

It has been a privilege to work to make sure Irvine’s parks and recreation are of the highest quality and live up to our residents’ standards. Careful planning and sound decision-making is critical to preserve and protect Irvine’s excellent quality of life and I am proud of my work to contribute in this way.

Why are Developers So Afraid of Lauren Johnson-Norris?

The well-funded, dark-money attacks on Lauren Johnson-Norris, candidate for Irvine City Council, are despicable.

Anonymous cowards have sent out unsigned letters to voters with vile lies about Lauren, who is a brilliant attorney, the mother of twin five-year-old girls, and a tireless advocate for children, families, and veterans.

In addition, more than $100,000 in dark-money has flowed into the coffers of a mysterious and unaccountable political action committee to spread even more lies about Lauren.

No doubt more dark-money attacks will follow.

The initial goal of these cowardly attacks was to scare Lauren into dropping out of the race.

That effort failed, and now the goal is to deceive Irvine voters.

These dark-money attacks, and the cowards behind them, will not succeed.

Irvine voters know the dedication to Irvine’s children and families that Lauren Johnson-Norris has demonstrated as a devoted and effective Community Services Commissioner.

Irvine police know the dedication to at-risk children and families that Lauren has shown – and have emphatically endorsed her campaign for Irvine City Council.

Ask yourself, what are the anonymous and well-financed cowards behind these attacks on Lauren afraid of?

They are afraid Lauren’s strength, intelligence, and courage.

They are afraid of Lauren’s vow to take forceful action to deal with Irvine’s over-development and traffic congestion.

They are afraid of Lauren’s commitment to ensure that Irvine’s children have access to quality, affordable child care.

They are afraid of Lauren’s independence and integrity.

They are afraid because Lauren is endorsed by both Irvine police officers and OCFA firefighters.

Most of all, they are afraid of you — Irvine’s voters — because they know you are sick and tired of our community being under the control of powerful developers hiding behind mysterious political action committees driven by unlimited piles of dark-money.

I condemn and denounce these false and cowardly attacks on Lauren Johnson-Norris, and I call upon other elected officials, candidates, and community leaders to join me in condemning these attacks.

I call upon everyone who loves Irvine to join me in rejecting this dark-money poison from our community and voting for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council.

RELATED:

Vote for Lauren Johnson-Norris for Irvine City Council!

The Veterans Cemetery: What Should Irvine Do Now?

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B. The issues now are what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide, and what should the Irvine City Council do in response to the voters’ decision.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014, and that the City Council should begin immediately to build a veterans cemetery at that location.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Sign used by Measure B opponents warning of thousands more cars on Irvine roads if Measure B passed.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending $40 – $80 million dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park.

In a survey of Irvine voters I conducted from my blog and through email, the great majority said that they voted against Measure B because they did not want more development and traffic.

Even more significantly, 64% said that Irvine should not spend $40 to $80 million dollars for a veterans cemetery, compared to only 13.5% in favor.

Current view of the original (ARDA) site for a veterans cemetery.

In a new and promising twist to the veterans cemetery saga, the Orange County Board of Supervisors has now agreed to have its staff study and advise whether county-owned open space outside Irvine might be a feasible location for an Orange County veterans cemetery. The approximately 234-acre site is in the city of Anaheim, near the 91 and 241, adjacent to Gypsum Canyon.

This site would provide a larger veterans cemetery for Orange County veterans, at no cost to Irvine, and be free from the divisive politics that has characterized the veterans cemetery debate in Irvine.

In fact, many of the veterans who initiated the fight for a veterans cemetery now favor this site, because, as Marine Corps Vietnam War veteran Nick Berardino has said, it appears that “veterans are removed from the political equation, and are now heading in a practical, reasonable direction to give all the brave men and women a final resting place.”

If the Irvine City Council approves Jeff Lalloway’s motion to spend $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery, it will deplete the Great Park budget for at least a decade.

As the Irvine City News noted, “It sounds noble when [Jeff] Lalloway, [Larry] Agran and their followers hold up the service of our veterans. But when you understand that the veterans still can’t get what they were promised without taking away the gardens, the museums, the music, the culture and the future of the Great Park, it puts Lalloway’s political power move in perspective.”

I have been a strong and consistent supporter of a veterans cemetery in Irvine.  But I have also been a strong supporter of fulfilling the promises that the City made to residents when it created the Great Park, and I am not in favor of giving up on those promises.

I believe the Great Park should have great gardens and a great museum, as well as other features for the enjoyment of all residents, and I do not believe that the City can afford to spend $40 to $80 million on a cemetery and continue with these other projects.

What do you think?  

Do you favor spending $40 to $80 million dollars to clean up the original site for a cemetery or should that money go to create other features for the Great Park?

The City Council will decide on Tues, July whether to approve Lalloway’s motion or whether some other course is more sensible and also responsive to the will of the voters and the needs of the community.

As always, the public is invited to attend and speak on these issues at the City Council meeting.

I also urge interested residents to contact the Mayor and the City Council by email and tell us in writing what you think we ought to do.

Here is how to contact the Mayor and the City Council:

Irvine City Council
949-724-6233 or irvinecitycouncil@cityofirvine.org

Mayor Wagner: donaldwagner@cityofirvine.org
Mayor Pro Tem Christina Shea: christinashea@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Jeff Lalloway: jeffreylalloway@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Lynn Schott: lynnschott@cityofirvine.org
Councilmember Melissa Fox: melissafox@cityofirvine.org

Thank you.

Why Did Measure B Lose? What Should Irvine Do Now? Take the Surveys!

[Take the surveys below at the end of this blog post.]

The voters in Irvine recently rejected Measure B.

The issue now is what, in rejecting Measure B, did the voters really decide.

Sign used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would mean thousands more cars on every road in Irvine.

Some argue that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters said that the proposed veterans cemetery should be located at the ARDA site that was originally selected by the City Council in July 2014.

But the actual language of Measure B said nothing about the original ARDA site, except that the development previously zoned for the strawberry fields site would be moved there.

Looking at the specific language of Measure B, what the voters said No to was “allowing the previously planned development for the Bake Parkway Site to be relocated to the intersection of Pusan and Irvine Blvd and allowing the development of a veterans cemetery near the intersection of I-5 and Bake Parkway.”

Thus, by its express language, the no vote on Measure B rejects that zoning decision, but does not authorize the city to place a veterans cemetery on the ARDA site.

Map used by opponents of Measure B, warning that passage of Measure B would lead to massive development and 10,000 more car and truck trips every day.

In addition, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site in 2014 was based on the belief that the City would provide the land for the veterans cemetery, but the costs of construction and subsequent maintenance of the cemetery would be wholly paid by state and federal government.

Crucially, the City Council’s approval of the ARDA site also came several years before we learned that construction of the veterans cemetery at the ARDA site would cost nearly $80 million, mostly due to the need for decontamination of the soil and the decontamination and removal of numerous existing structures, and that in addition to providing the land, the City would have to bear a significant portion of these construction costs.

In particular, Measure B said nothing at all about approving the spending of tens of millions of dollars that are now earmarked for creating the features of the Great Park that residents have said they want – such as museums, botanical gardens, a new Wild Rivers Water Park, and a permanent amphitheatre for live music – and, instead, using that money for a veterans cemetery.

My belief is that the rejection of Measure B means that the voters did not want a zoning change that, as the No on B campaign said, would have allowed “massive development projects” at the ARDA site, add “812,000 square feet of development,” and “bring 10,000 more cars and trucks to Irvine streets and neighborhoods every day.”

For me, the lesson of Measure B is that the voters did not want to risk the possibility that the land exchange would lead to more development and more traffic congestion, as well as the voters believing that it was too favorable a deal for the developer.

In other words, I see the rejection of Measure B as a vote against more development and traffic congestion, and not a vote in favor of spending tens of millions of dollars on a veterans cemetery rather than building other popular features of the Great Park

I would like to know what you believe the rejection of Measure B means, especially if you were among the majority in Irvine who voted against it.

Please take the surveys below:

 

The City Council must now decide whether, and how, to proceed with a veterans cemetery.  What do you want the City Council to do:

 

Please share these surveys with your Irvine friends and neighbors. I would like as much resident input as possible.

Thanks!

Melissa

UPDATE:

The surveys are now closed.

While the surveys are not scientific, I believe their results are straight-forward and present an accurate view of why Measure B failed.

The survey results show that the main reason people voted No on Measure B was opposition to development and traffic, rather than a desire to return the veterans cemetery to its original site.

These results should not be unexpected since the No on Measure B campaign focused almost exclusively on the claim that Measure B would lead to more development and traffic (“B = Thousands MORE Cars on THIS Road!”).

Further underscoring the conclusion that Measure B failed because of perceptions about development and traffic rather than preference for the original site, the survey results show that few residents are in favor of spending the $40 – $80 million required to build the veterans cemetery on the original site.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Lesson of Measures B and D: No More Developer Giveaways!

The clear message sent by voters with the defeat of Measures B and D is that developers must not be allowed to continue runaway development without regard to our traffic, schools, and quality of life, and that Irvine residents must have a say in all future development decisions.

I agree.

I supported Measure B because I believed it would provide veterans with the best chance for a dignified military cemetery; that it would save Irvine taxpayers millions of dollars; and that it would reduce traffic congestion by restricting future development at the strawberry fields.

The voters, however, did not want to risk even the possibility that it would lead to more development and more traffic congestion.

In fact, Irvine residents are rightly concerned that runaway development and traffic congestion will forever change the character of our beautiful city – without their input or consent.  They are rightly distrustful of developers whose bottom line is their profit, not our quality of life.  I am distrustful as well, and I share the voters’ skepticism about giant developers and their motives. Developers spent millions of dollars trying to defeat me in the last election, and no doubt will do so again.

Here’s why:

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I have not voted for a single new entitlement or approved any new construction. The development that residents are now seeing all over town – from the Great Park neighborhoods to Quail Hill to Tomato Springs – was approved by prior City Councilmembers, and not by me. I have not approved any of it, and I was one of only two Irvine Councilmembers who voted against the Irvine Company’s proposed 1,960-unit apartment complex at the old Traveland USA site at the 5 Freeway and Sand Canyon. I opposed that plan because of its negative impact on traffic and schools, and I will not approve any future development without prior careful determination and consideration of its impact on our schools, traffic, and open space.

As an Irvine City Councilmember, I also voted against Measure D. I opposed Measure D because I believe that Irvine residents must have a strong voice in determining how our city grows.

Moving forward, I reaffirm my pledge to end runaway development. Irvine must return to its commitment to the wisdom of the Master Plan.  The current piecemeal approach to development favored by developers and some members of the City Council must end. Irvine needs to return to the principles of careful planning and measured, smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine the best place in America to live, work, and raise a family. There must be no more developer giveaways.  

Irvine needs an effective traffic reduction plan, and not just a congestion management plan. Irvine had long been recognized as a national leader in city planning and innovation. Unfortunately, Irvine has failed to properly plan for the tremendous increase in traffic caused by the city’s explosive recent growth. As a result, Irvine residents have been forced to contend with unprecedented traffic congestion and less safe streets and roads.  Our City Council now needs to do more than try to manage the traffic congestion that is already out of control. We need to say clearly that the current level of traffic congestion is completely unacceptable and must be reduced.

Irvine needs more police officers.  As Irvine has grown, the need for more police officers has become critical, not just for preventing crime, but also for enforcing our traffic laws, which are essential to keeping our children safe as they play and go to school in our neighborhoods. I will work to add more police officers to ensure that our residents are as safe in Irvine now and in the future as they were before Irvine began to grow.

Irvine needs more childcare. We know that our great schools, beautiful parks, and safe environment attract many families with young children.  We also know that a critical part of any thriving community is safe, professional, reliable, and affordable preschool and childcare. Developers must be held accountable for including childcare as part of an overall city development plan, just as they are required to build schools. Irvine must become truly family friendly. No more waiting lists!

Let’s build the veterans cemetery.  I have been fighting for a veterans cemetery at the former El Toro Marine Base since 2014 and will continue to do so. Our veterans deserve a veterans cemetery close to their families and loved ones. Now that Measure B has been defeated, we need to find a site that honors our veterans and is approved by Irvine residents.  I am firmly committed to that task.

Let’s finish building the Great Park. For far too long, the residents of Irvine were given nothing but empty promises about building our Great Park on the grounds of the old El Toro Marine Base.  As Vice Chair of the Great Park, I am proud that we have finally succeeded in creating a Great Park that residents can enjoy, with terrific sports fields, a magnificent new championship soccer stadium, and the best community ice-skating facility in the West already under construction — but there is still much more to do.  Our residents have told us that they want a new Wild Rivers water park, and we need to ensure that happens.  We also need to fulfill our promise to build a city-owned amphitheatre on the Great Park’s cultural terrace, so that a developer’s decision can not deprive us of live music again. I will also insist that we follow the recommendations of residents and build world-class botanical gardens, museums, and a lake to make Irvine the home of a truly Great Park. Getting that job done is one of my main priorities.

I love Irvine and will continue to work to ensure that Irvine remains among the safest and most beautiful cities in the nation.  As your Irvine City Councilmember, I will fight to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-development, over-crowed schools, and traffic congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

Melissa

Join Me at the Meeting of the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Guest post by Krishna Hammond, Vice Chair Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Join Me at Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

My name is Krishna.  I’m the Vice Chair of the City of Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee (appointed by Irvine City Councilmember and Committee Chair Melissa Fox).  The Green Ribbon Committee is an official advisory committee to the Irvine City Council, and we meet four times a year to discuss potential policies and make recommendations to the city council.

This Wednesday, February 21st, we will be meeting at 4:30 PM at Las Lomas Community Park (10 Federation Way). We’ll be having a presentation by city staff on Active Transportation (related to biking, skating, rollerblading, and other forms of human-powered transport) and Mobility.

We will also get an update on charging stations for EV vehicles in Irvine.

In addition, we have subcommittees relating to Active Transportation, Energy Development, and Green Infrastructure.

If you’d like to get involved and share your ideas related to these policy areas, please consider meeting us at the committee meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

We have a lot of exciting things moving along  the pipeline, including a Request For Proposals for developing a feasibility study and technical assessment of Community Choice Energy, a means of allowing the city to purchase clean energy at a 3-7% savings on average.

You can read our agenda here.

Please join us.

Thank you so much!

Krishna

Bicycling in Irvine — Great Trail System, But Where to Lock-Up?

By  Ken Montgomery

Chair, Irvine Transportation Commission

Irvine Councilmember Melissa Fox appointed me to the City’s new Irvine Transportation Commission in May of 2017.  One of the missions of the Transportation Commission is to the advise the Planning Commission and the City Council on the traffic impacts of new development applications.

Another task for the Commission is to work with City staff on ways to improve traffic flow in Irvine.

Ken Montgomery Chair, irvine Transportation Commission

One way to reduce single occupant vehicle trips in Irvine is to increase the amount of people who will use a bicycle for their short trips around town when it is practical.

Irvine has the best bicycle trail system of anywhere in Orange County — it’s not even close.

Most of Irvine’s streets have bicycle lanes. Most of Irvine’s traffic signals have video detection cameras mounted on the mast arms. These cameras detect when there is a bicycle waiting at the red light. You don’t even have to push the bicycle push button anymore if you don’t want to. In Irvine you can legally ride on sidewalks, but you must yield to pedestrians. Thus, on the few streets where there are no bike lanes, you can ride on the sidewalks legally.

I ride all over Irvine everyday on my electric bike and I can get to every place in Irvine conveniently.

I know there are a few streets that have no bike lanes with narrow sidewalks like MacArthur near the airport, but for the most part I can ride a bike to any shopping center, professional office building, or recreational center or park in town.

The problem comes when you try to lock up your bike at one of these destinations!

Many private properties with big parking lots for cars have no bike racks. I frequently have to lock up to a handicap parking sign pole or a trash can with openings big enough for my cable bike lock.  Sometimes a destination will have a bike rack somewhere out of view, where no one can see the bike thief with the bolt cutters. This lack of bicycle parking often defeats the purpose of riding a bike if you can’t secure it properly.

The City requires new developments to have bike racks, but these racks often disappear after a few years or are relocated to an out of the way location. I feel that if I ride a bike, I should be able to lock up close to the building’s entry, not 500’ away.

The City is making efforts to get businesses to voluntarily provide bike racks near their building entries, but with over 25,000 businesses in Irvine, progress will be slow.  I encourage bike riders to let the business that you visit on your bike know that well placed bike racks is the “right thing to do” on many levels (customer service, environment, health).

The Transportation Commission meets the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month in the City Council Chambers at 5:30 pm.  I strongly encourage Irvine residents to bring any traffic concerns, ideas or comments to the Commission meeting.  You will be welcomed to speak at the beginning of the meeting.  The full City traffic engineering staff attends these meetings and they will hear your ideas and can respond to your questions.  Check here for Transportation Commission agendas.  The public is welcome to speak on all agenda items as well as non agenda related comments.

If you can’t wait for the next meeting, feel free to email me your questions, comments and ideas about transportation and traffic in Irvine.  I will forward your comments to the appropriate City staff member.

Let’s work together to improve Irvine’s traffic and make Irvine an even better place to ride our bikes!

Thank you for the privilege of serving the residents of Irvine.

Ken Montgomery – Chair, Irvine Transportation Commission
kemontgomery@cityofirvine.org

Listen to Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s “Ask a Leader”

Irvine, CA — Irvine City Councilmember Melissa Fox was recently interviewed by Claudia Shambaugh on KUCI’s award-winning program “Ask a Leader.”

The topics covered include the new composition of the Irvine City Council, Irvine’s recent progress on environmental issues, traffic, Melissa Fox’s goals for the Great Park,  and the Orange County Veterans Cemetery.

To listen to the podcast of the interview, click here.

Melissa Fox’s section of the podcast starts at 29:30, right after “Amazing Grace.”

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

Irvine’s Green Ribbon Environmental Committee seeks to increase public participation in energy conservation and sustainable practices, helping the City serve the community through advancing environmental policy initiatives and programs. The Committee is supported by the Public Works Department. Comprised of 10 members, the committee is an advisory body to the City Council and provides advice on sustainability policies related to energy, recycling and waste management, mobility, open space and water issues.

For some time, Irvine’s Green Ribbon Committee has been dormant because there were not sufficient members to constitute a quorum.  One of my goals in joining the Irvine City Council was to get this important committee going again.  Working with Irvine’s mayor, Donald Wagner, we were able to bring the committee back to functioning strength.  The first meeting of the newly reconstituted Green Ribbon Environmental Committee will be tonight, Tues., May 16, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center (City Hall).  

Below is an invitation to attend tonight’s committee meeting from Krishna Hammond, my Green Ribbon Environmental Committee appointee.  Krishna is a professional chemist and is passionate about protecting, improving, and conserving our environment,  He is a native of San Diego and a resident of Irvine.  Krishna holds a degree in chemistry from the University of California, Santa Barbara.  I feel very fortunate that he has agreed to serve on the committee.  I am also a member of the Green Ribbon Environmental Committee and, like Krishna, I hope you’ll able to join us this evening.  All Irvine committee and commission meeting are open to the public.

Join Me at Tonight’s Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee Meeting!

by Krishna Hammond

Krishna Hammond, Member, Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee

Hi everyone! I am lucky enough to be a committee member on the Irvine Green Ribbon Environmental Committee! This is an official advisory committee, which means we can make direct recommendations (which are submitted into the public record) to the Irvine City Council! We work on issues related to energy, recycling and waste, mobility, open space, and water issues.

The committee is having it’s first meeting tomorrow, May 16th, at 4:30 p.m. at the Conference and Training Center inside of the Irvine Civic Center.  We meet about four times a year, so catch us while you can!

I encourage you all to attend! The meetings are open to the public, and there will be a period for public comment.  If you have concerns or want to submit your ideas for improving our city, please don’t hesitate to drop by.

The more people there, the merrier!

Again, the meeting is at 4:30 p.m.  at the Conference and Training Center inside the Irvine Civic Center.

You can read our agenda here.

Hope to see you there!

City Councilmember Melissa Fox Appoints Traffic Expert Kenneth Montgomery to Irvine’s New Traffic Commission

I am pleased to announce that I have selected Kenneth Montgomery as my appointee to Irvine’s new Traffic Commission.

Kenneth Montgomery is a retired Civil Engineer with more than 40 years of experience in managing public works and traffic and transportation issues as Director of Public Works for 3 Southern California Cities: Norwalk, Redondo Beach, and Laguna Niguel.  Ken retired from the City of Laguna Niguel in 2009 after 18 years as that City’s first Director of Public Works/City Engineer.  He has been closely following transportation issues in Irvine for decades.

I am delighted that Ken Montgomery will be contributing his expertise and insights to fixing Irvine’s traffic problems and building a transportation system that will serve Irvine in the 21st Century.

When I ran for election to the Irvine City Council, I promised to reduce Irvine’s traffic congestion both in the long and short term, while providing more transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters, and to reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve safety, improve resident access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions. Ken Montgomery is also deeply committed to these goals – and he has the expertise, experience, and vision necessary to achieve them.

As Laguna Niguel’s Director of Public Works/City Engineer, Ken managed transportation and traffic issues for this new and developing city, including hiring the traffic engineering staff and managing their Transportation Commission.  He has also worked with Caltrans for years on redesigning freeway interchanges to minimize impacts on city streets.  Ken is an expert on traffic control devices such as stops signs, new traffic signals, street striping changes and school zone traffic management, and has designed and implemented dozens of major and minor street improvement projects to improve traffic safety, capacity and traffic flow.

Ken is a strong advocate for increased transportation choices as a means of traffic reduction.  He was instrumental in building train stations in each of the cities he has served.  He was personally responsible for the Metrolink station that serves Laguna Niguel/Mission Viejo, and has worked closely with the Orange County Transportation Authority (OCTA) on the bus lines and bus stops and shelters that serve Laguna Niguel.

He is also an avid bicyclist, who knows and champions the Irvine bike trail system.  Like Councilmember Fox, he is an advocate for making bicycle commuting safer and more practical.

Ken holds a degree in civil engineering from the University of Wisconsin, Madison. He and his wife Judy have resided in Irvine for 37 years and have lived in the same Woodbridge home since 1980.

Ken is an active member of Irvine Rotary Club and serves on its board.  He is also an Irvine CERT member, has served on the Arborlake Home Owners Association Board of Directors, and was a volunteer for the two Solar Decathlons held in Irvine’s Great Park.

“I’m excited to seriously tackle Irvine’s traffic and transportation issues, “Montgomery said. “I look forward to working with Councilmember Melissa Fox, my fellow traffic commissioners, city staff, and all our community stakeholders in getting Irvine moving again.”

The first meeting of the Irvine Traffic Commission is scheduled for Tues., May 16, 2017 at 5:30 p.m. at the City Council chambers.  Like all Irvine commission meetings, it is open to the public.

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Sierra Club Leaders Urge Vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

IRVINE, CA             Leaders of the Orange County Chapter of the Sierra Club recently urged their members in Irvine to vote for Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council.  “As people who care deeply about the environment and the future of our planet, and our beautiful City of Irvine, we urge you to join the Sierra Club in supporting Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council,” the Sierra Club leaders said.

mail-01Their message to Irvine’s Sierra Club members stated that “City Council candidate and Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox is a former Orange County Reserve Park Ranger and a passionate advocate for creating sustainable communities that incorporate public transit, active transportation and access to work, parks, shopping and recreation. Melissa is committed to environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning, including green building practices [and is] dedicated to stopping the rushed development of more housing and office buildings without proper planning or adequate infrastructure, and without consideration of its impact on our schools, our traffic, the character of our communities, and our quality of life.  Please vote for the environment in the November election by casting your ballot for Melissa Fox.”

“I am honored by the support of the Sierra Club, the nation’s largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization,” Melissa Fox said. “Preserving Irvine’s open spaces and protecting our environment are important to me.  Let’s move Irvine forward together — toward a re-commitment to Irvine’s tradition of environmentally responsible, community-oriented planning.”

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine.  In addition to her endorsement by the Sierra Club, she has also been endorsed by the Orange County League of Conservation Voters, as well as by the Orange County Professional Firefighters and current Irvine City Members Beth Krom and Lynn Schott.

To learn more about Melissa Fox’s campaign, visit www.votemelissafox.com.

Let’s Get Irvine Moving Again!

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Just about everyone in Irvine agrees that our recent explosive residential growth has led to unprecedented traffic congestion.

mail-01And every candidate for Irvine City Council now promises to control over-development and keep our traffic moving.

But no other candidate has offered a practical, concrete plan to accomplish this goal.

The key elements of my traffic plan are:

– Provide immediate relief for Irvine commuters by speeding up road and street repairs and prioritizing improvement projects throughout the city.

– Ensure Irvine residents and commuters have access to multiple safe and efficient transportation choices, including automobiles, bicycling, walking, iShuttle, ride-sharing, streetcar, and student transportation to Irvine’s schools.

– Restore Irvine’s village planning model requiring that housing developments include grocery stores, shopping, entertainment and childcare within one mile.

– Aggressively push for Irvine’s fair share of transportation funds from local, state, and ederal agencies — make sure that Irvine gets our fair share of Measure M, Measure S and Measure T funds for transportation to start — and seek out grants for fuel efficient and clean transportation projects.

These are concrete and practical steps that can be taken right now to help get our traffic and transportation problems under control, unsnarl our roads and provide Irvine residents with more transportation choices.

We must do something effective now about Irvine’s traffic, not just appoint a bureaucratic traffic commission to kick the can down the road.

The Fox Traffic Plan will reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions, and make our streets safer for children, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists.

Your comments and questions are welcome.

Contact me at melissa@melissafoxlaw.com

Visit my campaign website at votemelissafox.com.

Let’s get Irvine moving again!

 

 

 

 

Listen to Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s ‘Ask a Leader’

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“I’m going to be bringing my 25 years of advocasy to bear for the residents of Irvine in negotiating with our partners in development, our major developers, FivePoint Communities and the Irvine Company.” — Melissa Fox, on KUCI’s “Ask a Leader.”

Here is the interview I did on October 4 with Claudia Shambaugh on the program “Ask a Leader” on KUCI-FM about my campaign for Irvine City Council and the future of the City of Irvine.

We discussed development and over-development, my plan to fix Irvine’s traffic congestion and make our streets safer, protecting Irvine’s villages and local businesses, improving our bikeways and the iShuttle, environmental issues, and more.

My interview begins at 1:30 and ends at 22:50.

I hope you’ll listen and let me know what you think!

 

Council Member Lynn Schott Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

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I’m thrilled to share this press release with you:

IRVINE COUNCIL MEMBER LYNN SCHOTT ENDORSES MELISSA FOX FOR IRVINE CITY COUNCIL

IRVINE, CA   Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox today announced an endorsement from Irvine Councilwoman Lynn Schott. This is a major endorsement from a sitting Council Member and gives the Fox campaign huge momentum going into the final month of the campaign.

“Melissa Fox is committed to keeping Irvine a great place to live, work and raise a family,” Councilwoman Schott said. “As a Community Services Commissioner, Melissa has proven to be fiscally responsible and concerned about protecting our tax dollars and quality of life in Irvine. I am proud to endorse Melissa Fox’s campaign for City Council and I hope you will join me in voting for her on November 8th.”

Council Member Lynn Schott was the top vote-getter in the 2014 city council elections and is a 29-year resident of Irvine. She has long been a champion of fiscal responsibility in the city and has a record of service to her community, as well as proven leadership on policy issues important to Irvine residents.

“Council Member Lynn Schott’s endorsement gives me great hope for the future of Irvine, a future of working together in the best interests of the community.” Fox said in response.  “I look forward to working closely with her on fixing Irvine’s traffic congestion and creating real transportation solutions for Irvine.”

In addition to Lynn Scott’s endorsement, Melissa is also the only candidate for Irvine City Council who has been endorsed by both the Democratic Party and retiring Democratic City Council Member and former Mayor Beth Krom, as well as by the Orange County Firefighters Association, the League of Conservation Voters and the Sierra Club.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign visit www.votemelissafox.com.

Related: Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Choice Plan for Irvine

Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Plan for Irvine

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Irvine has long been recognized as a national leader in city planning and innovation.

Unfortunately, Irvine has failed to properly plan for the tremendous increase in traffic caused by the city’s explosive recent growth.

As a result, Irvine residents have been forced to contend with unprecedented traffic congestion and less safe streets and roads.  Irvine’s traffic jams are not only frustrating, they are also a major contributor to increased air pollution, and that’s bad not just for our climate, but our health too.

My plan offers concrete and achievable recommendations to unsnarl our roads and make our city a better place to live, work and raise a family.

Here is the press release announcing my traffic plan:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Melissa Fox Announces Traffic Reduction and Transportation Choice Plan for Irvine

 IRVINE, CA        Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox announced today a Traffic and Transportation Plan for the City of Irvine. Fox said that her plan is designed to reduce Irvine’s traffic congestion both in the long and short term, while providing more transportation choices for Irvine’s residents and commuters. The Fox Plan is intended to reduce travel time, reduce noise, improve safety, improve resident access to employment and entertainment centers, improve parking and reduce emissions.

“My plan is designed to make our streets safer for children, bicyclists, pedestrians and motorists,” Fox said. “The residents of Irvine are exasperated by the tremendous increase in traffic in the last few years and rightfully infuriated by the lack of concern shown by the current City Council.”

The key elements of the Fox Plan are:

– Provide immediate relief for Irvine commuters by speeding up road and street repairs and prioritizing improvement projects throughout the city.

– Ensure Irvine residents and commuters have access to multiple safe and efficient transportation choices, including automobiles, bicycling, walking, iShuttle, ride-sharing, streetcar, and student transportation to Irvine’s schools.

– Restore Irvine’s village planning model requiring that housing developments include grocery stores, shopping, entertainment and childcare within one mile.

– Aggressively push for Irvine’s fair share of transportation funds from local, state, and federal agencies and seek out grants for fuel efficient and clean transportation projects.

“My plan offers concrete steps that can be taken right now to help get our traffic and transportation problems under control, unsnarl our roads and provide Irvine residents with more transportation choices.” Fox concluded. “The Fox plan will make Irvine a model of transportation efficiency and safety in the future.”

The Fox Plan is intended to be brought to the City Council for comment and consideration.

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign visit www.votemelissafox.com

Related: Council Member Lynn Schott Endorses Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

Irvine’s Growing Child Care Crisis

talking-to-kids There is a serious child care crisis in Irvine.

At present, nearly 2,500 Irvine families do not have adequate child care.

Recently, the City of Irvine received a Child Care Needs Assessment that it had commissioned — at my urging — from an expert private consultant. school

The Assessment revealed a current city-wide shortfall of 2,433 child care spaces across all age groups, with the most acute shortage for children under 2 years-old and children 6 to 12 years-old.

The majority of the shortfall was found to be in the northern and most recently developed part of the city.

The Assessment further projected that Irvine will need an additional 4,551 child care spaces by 2035, due to the increase in housing development and the concomitant increase in the number of families with young children moving to Irvine.

What this means in plain language is that the current City Council and Planning Commission have not zoned sufficient areas of the city — in particular in the northern and most recently developed part of the city — for churches and houses of worship, instead zoning nearly everything for more profitable residential development.

Churches and other houses of worship traditionally provide a third of all child care. The Irvine City Council and the Planning Commission have approved thousands of new homes, but have not zoned sufficient areas for churches and houses of worship to meet our growing child care needs.

As a direct result of these shortsighted decisions of the City Council and Planning Commission, there are far more people and families in Irvine — and therefore more need for child care — but far less child care available.

This child care crisis is an easily foreseeable and direct consequence of the zoning and land use decisions of the current City Council and Planning Commission, which have put the short term profits of developers ahead of the longer term needs of Irvine’s families.

The problem is not that simply that we are building homes and developing Irvine, which was always intended to grow, but that we are building and developing homes out of balance with any other concerns, and with thousands more homes approved by the current City Council and Planning Commission without adequate child care, as well as without adequate school spaces, adequate local shopping, or adequate transportation choices.

And, as the Child Care Needs Assessment shows, this crisis will only get worse until we elect a City Council that puts families first and insists on a balanced approached to development .    

It’s Official: Melissa Fox Qualifies to Run for Irvine City Council!

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It’s official — I’ve filed to run for Irvine City Council!  Here is the official press release:

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox announced today that she has officially filed for an open seat on the Irvine City Council and qualified for the ballot in the November 8th General Election.

“As a business owner, attorney and Irvine Community Services Commissioner,” Fox stated. “I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our quality of life. Our city needs a new vision for unsnarling our roads and creating melissa.smilebetter economic opportunities.”

Fox starts her campaign with great momentum, having already received the support of the Orange County Professional Firefighters, the LA/OC Building and Construction Trades Council, numerous Irvine businesses and community members and Councilmember Beth Krom.

“Over the next 83 days,” Fox continued, “I plan to talk directly to Irvine voters about my plan for for restoring good planning. Irvine residents can count on me to work everyday to make Irvine an even better place to live and raise our families.”

Melissa Fox is an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, attorney, and small business owner in Irvine. To learn more about her campaign visit www.votemelissafox.com

To keep in touch with campaign updates, please “like” Melisss Fox for Irvine City Council’s Facebook page.

Irvine’s Biggest Challenge

An article in the L.A. Times highlights Irvine’s recent housing boom, especially the rise of enormous apartment complexes — “so large that you can see them from space.”

The Times article points out the spectacular recent growth of housing in Irvine and the consequent explosion of Irvine’s population. Some facts: Irvine accounts for more than half of all the new houses, condos, and apartments built in Orange County in the last six years. More than 4,500 apartments were built in Orange County in 2015, a nearly 60% increase from 2014, most of them in Irvine. “Irvine now has nearly 260,000 people, but long-range estimates top 300,000. This type of staggering pace is not new. From 2000 to 2012, Irvine’s population grew at 56%, far outpacing nearby communities . . . In its 2013-2021 housing element, the city of Irvine expects about 13,000 new residential units, with more than 5,000 in high-density zones that have more than 30 dwelling units per acre.”

1558533_856661157775873_5256657880293126135_nUnquestionably, Southern California, and specifically Irvine, needs more housing, especially affordable housing. As Irvine’s economy grows, our housing must also grow. Younger families and Millennials too often priced out and feel left out of Irvine’s economic and housing boom.

How Irvine manages its housing and population growth will determine whether Irvine remains a great city to live, work and raise a family.  

In fact, Irvine’s biggest challenge is ensuring that our infrastructure and public services – roads, schools, shopping, police, recreation, and utilities – keeps up with the city’s explosive housing and population growth.

Growth is good, when there is proper planning and adequate infrastructure. But in Irvine we have seen too much runaway development without regard to planning, infrastructure, or quality of life.  The result has been snarled traffic and overcrowded schools, lack of local shopping and crowds everywhere.  Every Irvine resident knows that Irvine’s increasing traffic congestion is taking a toll on our quality of life, economic competitiveness, driving safety and air quality.

This recent abandonment of thoughtful long-term planning is very un-Irvine.  Smart growth has been our tradition in Irvine for decades. Our general plan provides for local villages with their own close-by schools and retail centers. We appear to have forgotten one of the main reasons that Irvine is so special — the principle that growth must be properly planned and balanced so as to preserve and improve our quality of life.  We need to return to that highly successful model as we build out the remaining city areas. We need to return to well planned, balanced development in order to preserve our quality of life, prevent unnecessary taxation, keep the local cost of living in check and maintain healthy positive economic growth.

When I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will fight for development decisions based on proper planning and concern for the quality of life of Irvine’s residents.

Please visit my website — votemelissafox.com — to learn more about my campaign for Irvine City Council and how you can help Irvine return to balanced, smart growth — so that our quality of life is sustained and enhanced as Irvine grows.

Irvine Must Return to Our Traditions of Smart Growth and Planning

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Since 2010, Irvine’s population has grown by 21.2 percent – or by 45,021 people.  The Irvine City Council has approved 10,000 new housing units at the Great Park. Of the 21,197 building permits issued by Irvine from 2010 through 2015, 13,079 – more than half – were for apartments or condos.

Growth is good, when there is proper planning and adequate infrastructure.  But in Irvine we have seen our City Council allow runaway development without regard to planning, infrastructure, or quality of life. The result has been snarled traffic and overcrowded schools.

The fault is with a City Council that has abandoned Irvine’s longstanding commitment to smart growth and planning.

When I am elected to the Irvine City Council, I will fight for development decisions based on proper planning and concern for the quality of life of Irvine’s families

I am pro-smart growth, which has been our tradition in Irvine for decades.  Southern California, and specifically Irvine, needs more housing, especially sustainable housing.  As Irvine’s economy grows, our housing must also grow.

What I am against is runaway development without adequate planning, without adequate infrastructure and without adequate schools and local shopping, leading to traffic gridlock, school overcrowding, and the loss of our quality of life – all of which we are now experiencing in Irvine.

Our priorities must be a return to Irvine’s commitment to smart growth and planning, reducing traffic congestion, keeping education and innovation our city’s highest priorities, ensuring that our kids are safe, and celebrating the diversity that makes Irvine such a special place.

Residents Work Together to Save Woodbridge Village Center — and Win!

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It feels good when we work together and win!

This week, the Irvine Company announced plans to spend $30 million to revitalize the Woodbridge Village Center, which has not been updated since it was built in 1979.  The Center is in the middle of Irvine’s Village of Woodbridge, which encompasses about 9,600 homes and 30,000 residents.  According to the Irvine Company, the $30 million reinvestment will “upgrade the retail, dining and entertainment mix to complement longtime favorites, freshen the architecture for a coastal California feel, and create an expansive outdoor setting for dining, relaxing and community gatherings that overlooks North Lake.”

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Last year, Woodbridge residents were gravely concerned that the Village Center would be demolished, and that in its place new development would add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community – without their input or consent.

In response, a group of residents calling themselves Friends of Woodbridge Village Center formed to fight for their neighborhood.

In an email, they warned that “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

The group mobilized residents to oppose any move to demolish the Village Center or change the character of the neighborhood.  Students from Lakeside Middle School marched with protest signs to tell the Irvine Company that they loved the Village Center.

As I wrote at the time in support of the Woodbridge Village Center, “When Woodbridge opened on Father’s Day in 1975, it was Irvine’s premier master planned community, showcasing Irvine’s commitment to creating villages of single family homes and townhouses, with parks, greenbelts, bicycle trails, interconnecting pathways, open space, and neighborhood shopping.  After 40 years of success, the people of Woodbridge love their community, and they love their Woodbridge Village Center. That’s why people are so upset by the prospect that their Village Center will be destroyed and replaced with high density apartments and condos or office buildings. . . The public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.”

Now it appears that the residents’ concerns have been heard.

Congratulations to the Friends of Woodbridge Village Center – and to all of us who worked to ensure that Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most beautiful communities.

Congratulations to the Irvine Company for listening to Woodbridge’s residents and for re-investing in the Woodbridge Village Center.

Now we must continue to work together to ensure that the beauty, safety and character of our communities are preserved in all of Irvine.

Planning Commission Decision Dooms Irvine University Center Farmers’ Market

We were excited to report last June that Irvine, which has long has two certified farmers’ markets, was getting two more.

Now it appears that soon there may be one less.

The farmers’ market at University Town Center, which has been serving the University area and all of Irvine for nearly 20 years, is scrambling to find a new location.

The reason?

In January 2014, the Irvine Planning Commission, by a close vote of 3-2, approved the development of another drive-through fast-food restaurant at the University Town Center, including the removal of 58 parking spaces.

Voting in favor of the fast-food drive-through restaurant development and the removal of the parking spaces was Jeffrey Lalloway appointee Lynn Schott, now seeking her own seat on the City Council.

The loss of these parking spaces is what is now causing the University Town Center farmers’ market to struggle to find another location.

I certainly hope that the farmers’ market at University Town Center finds a new location in time for a 20th anniversary celebration and continues to serve Irvine for another 20 years.

Fast-food and too fast growth.

Bad planning has bad consequences.

Important Message from Seven-Year-Old Amin, My Favorite Campaign Volunteer!

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox Irvine, melissafoxblog, melissafoxblog.com, votemelissafox, votemelissafox.com, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox

Here is a message to all Irvine voters from seven-year-old Amin, my favorite campaign volunteer.

As Amin says: “I am seven-years-old. I can not vote, but YOU CAN! Vote! Vote! Vote! Vote Vote!”

Listen to Amin: 

Click here to visit Melissa’s campaign website.

Listen to Melissa Fox’s Interview on KUCI’s ‘Ask a Leader’

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Here is the interview I did on October 14 with Claudia Shambaugh on the program Ask a Leader on KUCI-FM about my campaign for Irvine City Council and the future of the City of Irvine.

We discussed development and over-development, traffic congestion, infrastructure, protecting Irvine’s villages and local businesses, the Irvine Barclay Theatre, improving our bikeways and the iShuttle,  environmental issues, losing one of farmers’ markets, my Irvine Food Tours, the OCTA’s irresponsible toll road decision, and more.

I hope you’ll listen and let me know what you think!

 

Traffic Congestion Causes Irvine to Drop to 14th Place in America’s Best Places to Live

Irvine’s national standing as one of America’s best places to live has declined sharply in the last few years, from 4th place in 2008, to 6th place in 2012, and now a precipitous drop out of the Top Ten to 14th place in Money Magazine’s recent “Best Places to Live 2014.”

The problem: while Irvine still receives raves for its “more than 54 miles of bike paths and 20,000 acres of parks and preserves” as well as for our master plan, “median home prices top $650,000, and traffic can be a brute during rush hour.”

What this means is that Irvine’s terrible – and increasing – traffic congestion problem is no longer our own little secret.

The rest of the country has noticed, and is re-evaluating the desirability of living in Irvine accordingly.

In the short run, Irvine’s drop to 14th best place to live – slotted between Centennial, Colorado, and Newton, Massachusetts – will primarily impact our civic pride.

But in the middle and longer run, the decline in Irvine’s reputation because of traffic congestion – and the serious underlying problem of over-development without adequate planning – could have far more dire, and costly, consequences.

Our real estate market could be adversely affected, as well as our ability to attract companies and business that are looking for the best quality of life for their executives and employees.

Most important, Irvine’s fall to 14th place in Money Magazine’s “Best Places to Live” is the canary in the coal mine, warning us of worse to come, as the rest of the world notices our rapid over-development without proper planning or infrastructure and our increasingly over-crowded schools.

We should take heed now, while we still can, and return to the principles of planning and measured , smart growth that not very long ago made Irvine Number One.

We want Irvine to be America’s “Best Place to Live” now and in the future, not just in the past.

Save Woodbridge

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Woodbridge residents are gravely concerned that new development will soon add unwanted housing and traffic congestion to Woodbridge and forever change the character of their beautiful community – without their input or consent.

Here is what the group Friends of WVC (Woodbridge Village Center) recently said in an email: “Big changes are in the works for the Woodbridge Village Center. The Irvine Company is presently evaluating options to replace the Village Center with either a residential development (most likely condominiums), or with a standard shopping center. Regardless of the option selected, the current Village Center will most likely be destroyed.”

Melissa and her son, Max, bicycling in Woodbridge.

Bicycling with my son, Max, in Woodbridge.

When Woodbridge opened on Father’s Day in 1975, it was Irvine’s premier master planned community, showcasing Irvine’s commitment to creating villages of single family homes and townhouses, with parks, greenbelts, bicycle trails, interconnecting pathways, open space, and neighborhood shopping.

By any measure, Woodbridge has been a fantastic success.

Community spirit has been,and continues to be tremendously high. Sure, there are a few problems and some things that people would like to see changed or improved.  For example, many people would like to see a new anchor store in the Village Center and new coffee houses and restaurants.

And, like most of Irvine, the WVC could use more ample and more secure bicycle parking, especially since Woodbridge has some of the most used and beautiful bikeways in the City.

But these few problems and suggested minor changes are very small in comparison to the great sense of community belonging and community pride shared by the residents of Woodbridge. Woodbridge remains one of Irvine’s most walkable, bikeable, and beautiful communities.

And, as someone wrote in OC Housing News, “the Woodbridge Center is an integral part of Irvine, connected to both lakes, Woodbridge high school and walking trails, literally in the center of Irvine.”

With Woodbridge Village Center business owner Bob Bibee at Pedego Electric Bikes Irvine.

After 40 years of success, the people of Woodbridge love their community, and they love their Woodbridge Village Center.

That’s why people are so upset by the prospect that their Village Center will be destroyed and replaced with high density apartments and condos or office buildings

What people may not realize is that the City Council has the full legal power to tell the developer that it can’t do whatever it wants to the Woodbridge Village Center, and specifically that it can’t unilaterally change the fundamental character of the community.

In fact, I believe it is the obligation of the City Council to ensure that the public interest – in preventing over-crowding, increased crime and congestion, and in preserving the character of our communities – comes before the private interests of developers, no matter how big and powerful those developers may be.

As another Woodbridge resident put it in OC Housing News, “The great recession is behind us. Time to dial back to measured growth and masterful planning such as the community was built on.”

I could not agree more.

Questions and Answers with Irvine City Council Candidate Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox

Irvine Community Services Commissioner and City Council candidate Melissa Fox

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

 

Q. What are the three things people should know about Melissa Fox?

I’m a wife, mother and daughter. I’m an attorney and I run my own law firm in Irvine. And I’m Irvine’s most enthusiastic cheerleader.

Q. What kind of law do you practice?

I’m a litigator – a lawyer who actually goes to court. My clients are usually businesses, large and small, as well as individuals who have business and contract issues. I’m also a specialist in fighting fraud – preventing bad guys from stealing, scheming or taking advantage of people through deceit and misrepresentation.

Q. Why do you choose to live in Irvine?

I was born in Orange County and first came to Irvine when I was 16 years old as a freshman at UCI. I moved away to finish school at Brandeis University in Boston and then Tulane Law School in New Orleans. I moved back to Irvine with my husband Michael when he was selected to be among the first Ph.D. students in the UCI School of the Arts. Irvine’s great schools and stellar public safety record were major factors in choosing to live here. And we loved the commitment to open spaces and parks and amazing cultural diversity. Our neighborhood is composed of people from all over the world. Irvine truly is a global village.

Q. How do you like being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner?

I love being an Irvine Community Services Commissioner! I was brought up to believe in public service. My father was in the United States Air Force flying bombers in the Korean War. Afterwards, he became a police officer and then an inspector for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. My mother was a nurse and then a librarian. My parents instilled in me a strong belief in public service. I’ve been an Orange County Reserve Park Ranger, a volunteer with Cub Scouts and Sea Scouts, and a board member of Beckman High School Football and Wrestling Boosters. I’m an active member of the Irvine Chamber of Commerce, where I love celebrating new business openings. So when I had the opportunity to become an Irvine Community Services Commissioner, I jumped at the chance.

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox welcoming OC Blues FC to Irvine

As a Commissioner, I’ve been able to make sure that new developments provide ample open space and park facilities for both children and adults. I’ve also been able to work with community leaders on planning and getting the go-ahead for a new Adventure Playground. Plus, I really love supporting Irvine’s community events — from the Irvine Korean Festival to the Diwali (Indian) celebration to New Year’s at the Irvine Chinese School to the Memorial Day ceremonies at Bill Barber Park and the Northwood Gratitude and Honor Memorial. I have the privilege of representing our City at many of these events.

Q. Tell us about the “Irvine Food Tours” you’ve led as a Commissioner.

Irvine is home to scores of remarkable locally-owned restaurants featuring cuisine as diverse as Irvine’s population. But many people who live in Irvine aren’t aware of the great restaurants we have, or perhaps they’re a little uncertain about trying food they haven’t eaten before. So UCI Professor Catherine Liu and I decided to create the Irvine Food Tour, where we visit a local restaurant and the owner or chef selects the menu and explains the food as it is brought to us. So far, we’ve done Food Tours to Japanese, Chinese, Hawaiian, and Middle Eastern restaurants. The Irvine Food Tour is also a great way to support local businesses and to connect local business owners with the community. I definitely plan to continue with the Irvine Food Tour after I’m elected to the City Council.

Q. You were very active in the movement to create a Veterans Cemetery in the Great Park. Why does that cause matter so much to you?

rvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox with her father, Korean War veteran Stan Kay, at Memorial Day ceremony at Col. Bill Barber Marine Corps Memorial Park

As the daughter of a combat veteran, I know what veterans have sacrificed for our nation. Orange County veterans do not have their own official military cemetery and those who want to visit a veteran’s grave in a veterans cemetery must travel to Riverside, San Diego or Los Angeles. When a bill introduced in the Assembly to remedy this problem by creating a Veterans Cemetery in Orange County, I decided to do whatever I could to make it a reality. It’s time that Orange County offered its veterans a final resting place close to their families and loved ones. And, as an Irvine resident, I strongly believe that a portion of the Great Park in Irvine, which was once the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station, is the perfect location for a Veterans Cemetery and a fitting memorial to Irvine’s proud military heritage.

I spoke to the City Council in support of a Veterans Cemetery in March, April and May, and attended the subcommittee meetings. It often seemed to me that the Council majority cared more about developers’ desire for more profit than about the veterans. I was thrilled when the City Council in July voted 5-0 to approve 125 acres in the Great Park as a military cemetery. Our veterans won a great victory, but the battle isn’t over. The developer still will not allow a Veterans Cemetery to be located in the Great Park unless the pressure from the veterans continues and the Council backs the veterans. That’s not going happen with the current pro-developer Council majority. So we need to stay vigilant and we need to make our support for a Veterans Cemetery clear with our vote in November.

We also need to do more for our veterans across-the-board. Irvine is home to thousands of military veterans. They should be represented within Irvine’s city government by an advisory committee expressly dedicated to the unique needs and perspective of the men and women who have served and are serving in our nation’s armed forces. That’s why one of the very first things I’ll do once I’m elected to the City Council is create a permanent Irvine Veterans Advisory Council to provide advocacy for veterans and to advise the Council on issues of importance to veterans and their families.

Q. Why are you running for Irvine City Council?

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Melissa Fox, melissajoifox, votemelissafox.com, Melissa Fox Irvine

Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council

As a business owner, attorney and City Commissioner, I understand the relationship between strong, pro-resident leadership and our Irvine quality of life. Runaway development is negatively impacting our schools, traffic flow, public safety, and our quality of life – all the reasons we choose to make Irvine our home.  We need smarter growth that protects and preserves what has made Irvine such a special place to live, work and raise our families.

I also want to safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety. I want to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for, using my skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud. I want to promote Irvine businesses, large and small.

And, finally, I’m going to make very sure that a Veterans Memorial Park and Cemetery is actually created in the Great Park.

I will keep my eyes focused on Irvine’s future – creating opportunities, solving real problems, and producing concrete results.

It’s Official! Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

Melissa Fox, Melissa Fox for Irvine City Council, Irvine Commissioner Melissa Fox, votemelissafox.com, melissajoifox,

It’s official!  Yesterday I filed the paperwork to qualify as a candidate for Irvine City Council.

Here is the press release we sent out:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Jason Mills (714) 576-4303

Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox Files for Irvine City Council

Irvine Business-Owner and Attorney the Top Fundraiser Among Candidates

Irvine Community Services Commissioner Melissa Fox announced her filing for Irvine City Council on Friday. Fox has also filed her campaign finance reports, showing her to be the top fundraiser among all candidates – even outpacing two council incumbents running for re-election.

“I’ve been tremendously encouraged by the support our campaign has received,” Fox said. “People in Irvine are responsive to a message that focuses on restoring smart growth and community-oriented planning. I’m very proud of the work we’ve done so far and excited about ramping up our campaign and focusing on the November election.”

An Irvine business-owner and attorney, Fox has also been holding neighborhood meet-and-greets across the city after opening up her campaign committee last year. In listening to residents from across the political spectrum, she has heard the same complaints about the direction of the city.

“People think that the current council is rubber-stamping too much development in the city. New housing tracts and apartment buildings are springing up over-night — they aren’t seeing the thought and planning that has made Irvine so special,” Melissa added. “People don’t move to Irvine to sit in traffic and send their kids to over-crowded schools. As a member of the City Council, I pledge to address the runaway development that’s threatening our quality of life.  I will be a strong pro-resident voice on the Council.”

Fox also pledges to ensure every public dollar is wisely budgeted and accounted for using her skills as a business attorney specializing in fighting fraud; promote Irvine businesses, large and small; and safeguard Irvine’s standing as a world-class city in education and public safety.

Melissa Fox is the daughter of a Korean War combat veteran and has been active in advocating for a Veterans Cemetery and Memorial Park in the Great Park.

Melissa Fox lives with her husband, Dr. Michael Fox, their son, Max, and their Siberian Husky, Scout, in the Northwood Park area of Irvine.